Ken Palmer passes

Ken Palmer passed away on Wednesday, October 30, of pneumonia following a heart transplant at University Hospital, London, Ontario. He was 65.

Born in Montreal, on October 5, 1948, Kenneth Wayne Palmer grew up in Port Stanley and faced heart-related illness throughout his life. The mandolin player and vocalist was a founder member of the Dixie Flyers.

The band was formed in 1974 and has become one of Canada’s best known bluegrass groups.

Initially, they were a part-time band, playing the old York Hotel, London, which is situated halfway between Toronto and Windsor on the Thames River.

In 1975 they played at the Carlisle Bluegrass Canada festival (near Burlington) where they caught the attention of Bill Monroe, who exclaimed as they came off stage, “You boys are pretty good.” He went on to say at another time … “the Dixie Flyers play good bluegrass, they play it the right way.”

That led to an invitation in 1983 to play at Monroe’s festival at Bean Blossom, Indiana.

The Dixie FlyersSubsequently the Dixie Flyers performed at various top Canadian and US festivals. One regular venue for the band was the Flint (Michigan) Folk and Bluegrass Festival.

The Dixie Flyers hosted their own television series for CFPL TV’s Bluegrass Express, and hosted live weekly radio broadcasts on CJBX-FM Live at the Wellington.

They made guest appearances on The Tommy Hunter Show, The Ronnie Prophet Show, The George Hamilton IV Show, and on all of the Canadian TV networks.

Palmer retired from the Dixie Flyers about three years ago.

He was a former CBC Radio host and he helped to develop Fanshawe College’s radio station.

In the 1970s, Palmer was the talent co-ordinator for the old Smales Pace and Change of Pace folk clubs, and from 1990 he was the artistic director of the Home County Music & Art Festival.

A recipient of the Jack Richardson award, he ran a record retail outlet, Sam the Record Man, in London.

The Dixie Flyers, who are members of the London Music Hall of Fame, play Jimmy Martin’s You Don’t Know My Mind live at the Home County Folk Festival, 2007 ….


The Dixie Flyers released eight albums: Light – Medium – Heavy, For Our Friends, Just Pickin’, Cheaper to Lease, Five by Five and Business As Usual (all for Boot Records); New Horizons (Stony Plain); and Live at the Wellington Tavern and, their latest, Right on Track (2005) (both on the Flat Top label).

Palmer’s funeral service will take on Monday, November 4, 2013, at 1:00 p.m. at the Williams Funeral Home, 45 Elgin Street, St. Thomas, Ontario.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.